Have you ever played golf?
If so, you’ve experienced one of the most frustrating aspects of this game that is the source of many lost balls, broken clubs and ventures through the woods of your local golf establishment. This thorn in the flesh is called the slice. We are all capable of doing it. Even the best in the world are at risk and there are thousands of websites, ebooks and tools offering to cure this ill for you.
Have you ever stopped to think about how this happens?
I don’t get to play golf much these days (due to pace of life and the fact I’m not good at it) but I’ve had my share of slices. This usually ended with me having encounters with poison ivy, snakes and other scary insects as I ventured deep into the woods looking for my lost ball, but I’m fascinated by the science behind how a slice actually occurs.
A slice happens when your club-face is not quite straight, creating a clockwise spin on the ball upon impact. Research has proven that every degree off center can lead to 7–8 yards variance from your target. For example, if you are only 5 degrees off center, your ball could end up 35–40 yards from your intended target. It’s fascinating that such a small deviation can lead to such a large deviation downstream.
This is also true in leadership and in life. The small decisions we make today will have a big impact in the future. If we are off trajectory by only a few degrees today it may end up being yards off target weeks, months or years from now. This is important because we may think the small decisions we make today will have small consequences when in reality there is a lot at stake in the decisions we make today.
Here are a few practical things to think through when attempting to make sure you are on target today so you can be on target tomorrow:
Clearly define your destination: I talked about this in previous posts (An Acorn, Corn Maze and Leadership), but it’s important to be clear about where you want to end up. If golf, you have a flag stick or can visualize a target in the fairway that you aim to hit. In life, you also need a target you are aiming for so you can give yourself the best chance to end up where you desire to be in the end. If you don’t define your destination, you will still end up drifting to a destination. We all end up somewhere. Let’s just do everything we can to end up were we prefer.
Find small things that are working and replicate: My experience is that big challenges are not solved with big solutions. It is usually the small solutions that add up to solve big challenges. Look for and identify the small things that are working and find a way to replicate them in your organization or life. These small things are helping you move the ball down the field toward your intended target yard by yard.
Build your own personal advisory board: One of the main components of trying to build a business is to bring on an advisory board that can complement the strengths of your management team. They can help fill the gaps and provide domain expertise. In the same way, we should have our personal advisory board that fills this same purpose. Who do you have in your life that helps you fill the gaps and ask the tough questions to keep you on track? We need coaches or advisers to help us stay the course we map out. We need to surround ourselves with people who tell us what we need to hear vs only what we want to hear.
Set up guardrails to keep you on target: Wouldn’t it be nice if there were nets lining every fairway so when you do slice the ball it eventually ends up in the fairway anyway? That would change the game, but that is what guardrails do for us. Guardrails are there to protect us and warn us when we start to drift off course. Think through this. What guardrails can you set up in your life to help protect you and warn you when you start to drift off your intended path? This will help prevent waking up one day and wondering how you drifted so far from your goals.
Leadership is complicated and messy, but it’s our responsibility to keep our families and organizations heading in the right direction so we reach the desired destination.
Maybe the small decisions do add up. You’ve heard it said, “don’t sweat the small stuff”, but it’s the small stuff that eventually impacts whether or not we are on the right trajectory. So, do sweat the small stuff and make sure these small things are getting you closer to where you want to be in the future.